What health conditions can affect your driving?

Getting behind the wheel of a car is something many of us do on a daily basis, and sometimes it’s easy to take our ability to drive for granted. However, there are many health conditions that may affect our ability to drive safely.

From seizures and failing eyesight to pain from operations and drowsiness from medications, all can affect safety on the road.

Read our helpful guide to some health conditions that can affect your driving and could be disclosable to the Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) – you might be surprised at some of them!

Certain medical conditions can mean having to give up your driving licence altogether. If you continue to drive after your licence has been revoked, your car can be seized by police.

Similarly, if you drive without informing your insurance company of certain medical conditions, this may invalidate your insurance and again, your vehicle will be at risk of being seized. If that happens you’ll need impounded car insurance in order to get the car released.

By searching our panel of insurers here at Insurance Factory, we can help you find the policy that’s right for you and your circumstances.


Common health conditions that can affect your driving

We all know driving safely requires all your attention and can be tiring both physically and mentally. In view of this, the law states if you've any health condition that affects your driving, you should tell the DVLA.

There are over 200 health conditions on the government list ranging from absence seizures and acoustic neuroma all the way through to visual field defects and Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome.

If you have any health condition at all then it’s well worth checking this list to see if you need to report your condition. You can also find the relevant DVLA form or questionnaire to complete.

If you don’t, you could be fined up to £1,000. You may also be prosecuted if you’re involved in an accident as a result. And it isn’t just the law you need to be concerned about. If you make a claim on your insurance, and it turns out you have an undisclosed medical condition, this can potentially scupper your claim.

Driving without valid insurance means police could impound your vehicle. Read on to find out some of the most common conditions that could potentially need to be disclosed.
 

Epilepsy

Due to the nature of epilepsy, it can significantly affect safe driving and is perhaps the most obvious health condition we need to discuss. Seizures from epilepsy can sometimes cause complete loss of consciousness with no warning. So, everyone with epilepsy must inform the DVLA of their condition.

As a rule, you're usually not allowed to drive until you have been seizure-free for at least a year. In some cases, if it was your first seizure then you may be allowed to drive six months later.

Some people wrongly believe if you develop epilepsy, you’ll never be allowed to drive. But for many people this simply isn't true. Epilepsy Action has lots of helpful information on driving and epilepsy.
A girl driving a car along a motorway towards the sunset


Blackouts, fainting, loss of consciousness

Blackouts and fainting are common at all ages with around 40% of people affected at least once in their lives.

There can be many causes of blackouts but if one was to happen whilst driving then it would be dangerous. A simple faint after prolonged standing or in hot weather probably isn’t a cause for concern and shouldn’t affect your ability to keep driving.

However, if there's no obvious reason for it or it keeps happening, then you must speak to your doctor and you may need to tell the DVLA. Depending on the circumstances you might be unable to drive for one, six or 12 months.
 

Diabetes

Not everyone who has diabetes will need to tell the DVLA. It really depends on how your condition is being treated.

If you’re taking tablets or non-insulin injections, you’ll need to check with the doctor to find out whether you need to inform the DVLA. But if your diabetes has been treated with insulin for three months or more, then you must tell the DVLA. Diabetes UK has all the information you need to know about driving and diabetes.

Another important consideration is whether you develop diabetes complications making it harder for you to drive. These include problems with your eyes (retinopathy) or nerve damage (neuropathy).
 

Neurological conditions

Dementia, multiple sclerosis, motor neurone disease, Parkinson's disease, stroke and a host of other conditions affecting your nervous system can all affect your ability to drive.

Just because you have such a condition it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll never be able to drive again. But you will need to see your doctor and will probably need to inform the DVLA.

For example, dementia is a condition affecting memory, decision-making, and social skills and can make driving unsafe. While you might still be able to drive safely in the very early stages, your condition will need to be monitored closely.

Driving is an important way of keeping independent and maintaining a sense of freedom. There is lots of help and support out there to help you continue to drive safely for as long as possible.
 

Heart or circulatory conditions

The British Heart Foundation says while a heart or circulatory condition might stop you from driving for a short while, very few drivers have to give up altogether.

For example, if you develop angina when resting, when you're driving or when your emotions are high then you need to stop driving. Once the angina is controlled you can start driving again.

How long you need to stop for and whether you need to inform the DVLA will depend on the condition and what your doctor tells you. There are also different rules for those who hold a bus, coach or lorry licence.

It’s always important to let your insurer know about any changes to your health to ensure you're still covered in the event of an accident and you don’t risk your car being impounded.
 

Visual impairments

Vision is clearly vitally important to safe driving and every driver must be able to reach a minimum standard.

There are a number of health conditions that could affect your eyesight and therefore your ability to drive.
 
  • Cataracts – One or both eyes can be affected, resulting in the lens becoming opaque and causing blurred vision. The impact this makes to your driving will depend on the progression of the cataracts. In the early stages you might not notice too much of a problem. However, as the condition worsens you could experience increased glare from headlights, poor night vision, and double vision. Fortunately, corrective surgery can often relieve symptoms and make driving possible again.
  • Age-related macular degeneration – Among older people this is one of the leading causes of vision loss. It can cause distortion in your central field of vision and make objects appear blurred. As the condition progresses it may make reading road signs and seeing pedestrians or other obstacles in the road very difficult.
  • Glaucoma – Glaucoma is a complicated disease damaging the optic nerve. If it’s not treated, it can cause irreversible sight loss and even blindness. According to Glaucoma UK only 12% of people with glaucoma lose their driving licence. If you’re diagnosed early and follow the advice of your doctor it may never affect your driving.
A woman driving on a country road with the sunsetting behind


A note on operations and medications

There are many operations, particularly those involving your abdomen or legs, that can temporarily make driving difficult. Before leaving the hospital, speak to your medical team about driving.

Often the deciding factor is not whether you're fit to drive, but whether you could perform an emergency stop.
Don’t forget to take into account that some medicines might impair your ability to drive. Always check with the prescribing doctor or pharmacist as to whether you need to stay away from driving.

Strong painkillers, tranquillisers, antihistamines and antidepressants are just some of the common medicines you need to be aware of.

If your car gets impounded when you have a health condition it can really put your independence and freedom under threat. Call Insurance Factory about impounded car insurance and we’ll get you back behind the wheel as soon as possible.
 

Lesser-known conditions that could also affect your driving

It’s always worth checking if any of your health conditions could affect your driving. Here are some of the more surprising ones.
 

Cancer

If cancer causes problems with your brain or nervous system, or if you’re taking medication that could have side effects then you might need to tell the DVLA. They will then decide whether you’re medically fit to hold a licence or whether restrictions need to be put in place.

For illness that could get gradually worse they might issue you with a time-restricted licence valid for one, two or three years. This is a full driving licence which you can renew after its expiration by filling out another medical report so the DVLA can monitor your condition.
 

Déjà vu

While many of us experience déjà vu at one time or another, it can also be associated with certain types of epilepsy. If your déjà vu is related to seizures or epilepsy then you need to inform the DVLA.
 

Labyrinthitis

This common inner ear infection can cause a delicate structure deep inside your ear (the labyrinth) to become inflamed. Sufferers can experience mild headaches, some hearing loss, ear pain and vertigo.

While these usually clear up after a few weeks, in some cases it can last longer and have a significant impact on your driving.
 

Sleep Apnoea

Another relatively common condition which can lead to regularly interrupted sleep. Anything which significantly affects your sleep can cause excessive sleepiness and have a knock-on effect on your driving.

Speak with your doctor for further advice. You must inform the DVLA if you have confirmed moderate or severe sleep apnoea, narcolepsy or cataplexy, or any other sleep conditions that have caused excessive sleepiness for at least three months.
 

Eating disorders

Eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa can lead sufferers to feel weak and dizzy. You must inform the DVLA if you’re suffering from an eating disorder and it affects your ability to drive safely. Speak to your doctor if you're uncertain.
 

Arthritis

Millions of people of all ages in the UK suffer from painful inflammation in their joints caused by arthritis. With hands, spine, knees and hips commonly affected it can have an impact on your ability to drive safely.

If your condition affects your driving and has lasted more than three months then you’ll need to tell the DVLA. Versus Arthritis has lots of advice on how to make driving more comfortable and who to get further help from.
 

Mental health issues

Many of us suffer from mental health problems, and many of us see no bad effects on our driving whatsoever. Whether or not to inform the DVLA will often come down to the individual driver’s condition and how far it affects their driving ability.

For example, if your depression or anxiety does not affect your driving then you won’t need to tell the DVLA. However, if you have other conditions such as bipolar disorder, paranoid schizophrenia or psychosis, you must tell the DVLA.

Mind has a useful guide explaining the rights you have to drive, what information you need to tell the DVLA and how to appeal if your driving licence is taken away.
 

Autistic Spectrum Condition (ASC)

If your ASC affects your ability to drive safely, you’ll need to tell the DVLA. This includes Asperger syndrome. However, not everyone with an ASC will need to do so. Ask your doctor if you’re not sure.

A person driving a car on a sunny day
Impounded car insurance from the Insurance Factory

When you’re already dealing with a health condition, the last thing you need is an impounded car. Call the Insurance Factory for impounded car insurance and we’ll get it sorted in no time.

Take out a policy with the Insurance Factory, and you’ll receive documents to use as proof when you visit the pound.

Get a free, no-obligation quote for impounded car insurance today.

Policy benefits, features and discounts offered may very between insurance schemes or cover selected and are subject to underwriting criteria. Information contained within this article is accurate at the time of publishing but may be subject to change.